Sunday, March 30, 2008

Mari, Queen of...Well, Everything

Round and Round: yep, time to throw some love to a discipline I ordinarily overlook, as it's been a smashing few days at the track Worlds and jailbait savant Marianne Vos has apparently become the first cyclist to rack up Worlds titles in 'cross road and track (points) and Brad Wiggins woofs badly in the preliminaries only to come back fighting to take gold. Right on Marianne! Over in the boys' room, meantime, we love Jens wraps up his 80th Criterium International; Cadel seemingly gets tired of all the wheel-sucking accusations and takes the initiative and ultimately the win over at Coppi e Bartali; and, as Alberto Contador swears his fidelity to Johan Bruyneel and puts the kibosh on rumors he's headed to Caisse d'Epargne for the Tour, Stefano Garzelli bludgeons the field in every race he's in to dope-slap the vindictive babies at RCS Sport for keeping Acqua e Sapone out of the Giro. Oh well--at least amidst all the petty bitter infighting and randomly-targeted disqualifications, someone is getting to ride somewhere!

I Guess They Ain't Getting a Beer Together Anytime Soon: and, a nod to the selfless whistleblowers of this tainted sport, as Andreas Kloden (sick again, though unclear if sick in the sense that "I'm whacked with the same early-season bug that's plaguing half the peloton" or sick in the "I'm gonna hurl if Johan finds out what I really ingested at T-Mobile" sense) threatens to sue the shorts off Patrik Sinkewitz for ratting him out to the narcs, and embittered publicity ho'/broke-!@# ex-soigneur-to-the-stars Jeff D'Hont gets tired of waiting for Jan Ullrich to 'fess up and writes yet another book whining about how he's not getting the adulation he deserves for profiting off helping other people dope. Still, none other than Philippe Gilbert has purportedly dropped to his knees in gratitude to our unfairly-maligned antihero, claiming after his handsome victory at Het Volk, "I won because of you, because of your book!", apparently because the French teams have been hampered of late by their tough anti-doping programs relative to the rest of the drug-fueled peloton, which still doesn't explain why, say, CSC is completely kicking their !@#@*. Keep lookin' for those excuses boys!

A Plea to the Riders: Menchov. Cunego (though I can't help but imagine if this has anything to do with the fact that he's tired of getting smacked around by the sneering tifosi as a one-hit wonder). Contador. So help me, even we love Samuel Sanchez from Euskaltel-Euskadi for heck's sake. All of 'em, dissing two far more beautiful races for the circus-freak parade that is now the Tour. Fine, you'll go down in history as winners of the Grand Boucle, yap, even folks who don't follow cycling will know your name, yap, yap, you'll be able to hit up your team for more money next year than God, yap, yap, yap. But in the name of all that is fair and good in this world, can you all stop treating the Giro and Vuelta like everybody's beer-goggled last-chance closing-time one-night (well, three-week)-stand already?!

And You Thought *I* Was a Roberto Heras Fanatic: yep, I'm a grotesque hypocrite, so you can all just go to hell but I hope you enjoy it anyway. Pay no attention to that Man(olo Saiz) behind the curtain:

Oh Give Me a Home/Where the Buffalo Roam: finally, though this admittedly hasn't much to do with cycling, except that it's wholly worth spending thousands of dollars to follow the Giro d'Italia around like a dog just so you can power-snarf the best food on earth while you freeze your @#$ off for six hours on the side of a Dolomite waiting for a ten-second glance of Gilberto Simoni, I hereby humbly request a moment of reflection in sympathy for the Italian buffalo mozzarella crisis, which, despite the desperate assurances of the Italian agriculture minister that the supply is safe, is still being banned by such purveyors of fine products as China, on the lame grounds that organized crime is alleged (alleged! please don't hurt me) to have tainted the pristine grazing grounds by the unauthorized dumping of illegal waste. So mangia, mangia--but carefully!

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

10 Rules of Race Participation

As teams like Cofidis get invited to the Tour de France this year after being forced to run like rats post-doping-poz last year, while teams like Astanadiscovery are punished for crap they had nothing to do with, and guys like Stefano Garzelli, who's not alleged to have done anything wrong, get barred from the Giro while guys like Petacchi, who with a surely legit Therapeutic Use Exemption somehow accidentally managed to imbibe enough asthma meds in a single stage to fuel a drunken thundering herd of Budweiser Clydesdales for a week, get to ride it, it seems to me that some clarification is in order to be sure everyone understands ASO, RCS, UCI, WADA, CONI, and every other pain-in-the-@## acronym's perfectly fair and rational rules for race participation in 2008:

1. If you're busted red-handed, then wah for the cameras (because we all know you would've confessed even if you hadn't been) both before and after your suspension ends, you can ride.

2. If you raise valid due process concerns, shut the hell up and discreetly retreat into the background while your lawyer handles the hearings, or simply shut the hell up and serve your sentence, you can't ride.

3. If you protest your actual innocence, you can't ride *ever*.

4. If you're busted, but do lots of kid-friendly charity work, and are even prettier than Jan Ullrich, you can't ride quite yet, but while you're waiting, we're gonna install a 50-foot tall bronze statue of you in your hometown.

5. If we're still pissed at your boss because we never nailed Lance Armstrong for doping, you can't race.

6. If you're the subject of gross rumor and unfounded speculation as to your performance-improving habits, you're out. Unless we like you. Then you're in.

7. If we didn't tell anyone you skipped doping controls, then someone finds out, you're out. But your team is in next year.

8. If you're French, and we're French, you're in. If you're Spanish, and we're Spanish, you're in. If you're Belgian, and we're Belgian, you're in. If you're Italian, and we're Italian, but we're pissed at your team manager for reasons having nothing to do with you, you're out.

9. If you hire busted or Op Puerto-implicated dopers, then fire 'em after successfully exploiting their names for cheap publicity, you're in. If you hire busted or Op Puerto-implicated dopers, and keep them on the team, you're out. Unless you hire David Millar.

10. If neither you nor your team has done anything wrong, but we need you as a completely innocent pawn in our studly territory-marking !@#$ing match, you can't race. In fact, just hand over the ProTour license. But not til after you've paid for it.

Well, I hope that makes it easier for you to plan your seasons, boys. Allez, allez--if you've got any races to go to!

Monday, March 24, 2008

Say It Ain't Klo'!

Back in the Tour My !@#: yep, the very same day Astana wipes the tarmac with all comers in the Vuelta a Castilla y Leon time trial (including the boy at issue here in a respectable twelfth) in a handsome dig at the bitter wanky egomaniacs over at ASO who insist on Unibattering them out of the Grand Boucle over an entirely unrelated snit with the bitter wanky egomaniacs at UCI, we-still-love-Andreas Kloden-so-go-to-hell-the-lot-of-you-besides-there's-hardly-anyone-left-untainted-in-the -peloton has admitted that he was prescribed and took "vitamins" from the fine'n'spotless T-Mobile doctors at the University of Freiburg clinic in 2000. !@#$%^&&*! Okay, the Astana spokesman swears that Klodi swears that's all he took, which unfortunately even I must concede I buy (no matter what Kloden himself was told by the Drs. Frankenstein) to the exact extent I believe that the skin patches Manolo Saiz whacked on his Liberty Seguros proteges (cough! no one I can think of in particular cough!) like temporary tattoos from a Cracker Jacks box were merely packed with moisturizers to soothe the poor babes' sensitive sunburned skin. Still, despite the team's warm if surely temporary words of support, Klodi's already got a date with Johan Bruyneel tomorrow to discuss the situation, which I imagine is ultimately likely to lead to the sort of "voluntary resignation" one hands in when one's alternative is voluntarily getting one's legs run over with the team car. On the other hand, 2000 was a long, long time ago--and the sport's been free of doping scandals since then, right?

What is so Rare as a Day in June?: for one thing, the odds that Floyd Landis gets to ride the Tour de France again before he fossilizes even if he wins his freakin' appeal, as CAS closes up shop on his hearing but promises, in the interests of careful study of the evidence which at least earns them some points, to issue a verdict just in time to ensure poor Floyd has absolutely zero chance of coming up with a squad in time for the (hell, any) race. Apropos of absolutely nothing, I see that Free-Iban-Mayo's verdict is currently running about 3 weeks late, but I'm sure there's nothing to worry about there, either. Ummm...anyone....anyone...

Okay, I was gonna go all nuts over Emma Pooley's smashing win against a brutal field in the World Cup's Trofeo Alfredo Binda, including Nicole Brandli, reigning world champ Marta Bastianelli, Kristin Armstrong and Oenone Wood, and wax all poetic about quiet little Sastre's reserved optimism for the season ahead, and of course swoon over Euskaltel-Euskadi's daring early-season attacks, and gently point out to the advertising department over at Vs. that the endlessly-hyped fact that Lance Armstrong's running the Boston Marathon still isn't gonna improve the waning Tour de France ratings, but frankly, right now I'm just too irked. Damn, Klodi, you couldn't've had the sense to meet those two dope-pushing dirtbags in a nice discreet alley somewhere?!

Sunday, March 23, 2008

All Quiet on the Eastern Front

Lullaby, and Good Night: so it's a disquietingly, well, quiet, last-ditch CAS appeal for Floyd Landis, in contrast to the constant relentless leak-happy dope-smacking aural assault and foreordained conviction that was the first Landis witch trial, which is both rather a relief from a due-process perspective (at least on the theory that everyone involved in this disaster outside of Floyd's team has so far been a grotesque pandering camera-whore), and maddeningly frustrating from a voyeuristic gossipmonger perspective. Still, news or no, I remain firm that you all ought to head over to the all-knowing oracles over at trustbutverify, who even in the absence of actual day-to-day news can still provide a historical view of everything you need to know but are, like me, too stupid to ask. Allez allez trustbut, and in bocca al lupo Floyd! Meantime, over in more public proceedings, former Olympian Tammy Thomas' perjury trial from the BALCO grand jury investigation gets underway tomorrow, including, one imagines, a distinctly unpleasant line of questioning in which Ms. Thomas gets to explain why she, among all women, was interested in downing enough testosterone and steroids during key periods of her career to guarantee the growth of a virtually razor-proof crop of back thatch. I'm sure it was just for that smoky Lauren Bacall come-hither voice!

Milano-SanReamed: well, crushed as I am that we love Oscar Freire didn't take SanRemo, at least he's damn near the only sprinter who didn't have his head up his !@# at the race, joined only in the brainiac department by team Liquigas, which itself was unfortunately stymied by the stuporous inability of the other sprint squads to muster the timely awareness to chase down the break, which rendered the break itself's head-scratching lack of interest in the rather noticeable attack of the Greatest Time Trialist On Earth (don't worry Dave Z, it'll be you again by season's end, I know it!) 2 km from the finish utterly moot. Major points, though, to Paolo Bettini's brave if futile charge up the Cipressa, Il Falco's perfect flight down to the formidable group of Bettini Rebellin & Lokvist, and the honors of the entire day to we love Phil Liggett, who seemed to imply, at one point in the coverage, that perhaps one reason for the peloton's apparent indifference to the race going on around them was their sheer lack of energy left, thanks to the inconvenient lack of easily-masked doping products and an excess of pesky testing, to pedal with. Right on Phil!

Basso Non E' Uomo: over in Italy, hitherto-quiet Gilberto Simoni (presumably because he isn't yet in form enough per his season plans to have an immediate Italian competitor to insult) has now got his very own mountain bike marathon named after him, which he hopes will become a classic along the lines of Paris-Roubaix or Flanders in thirty years' time. The man can still beat the crap out of everyone in the Giro, call St. Basso on the carpet weeks before he's linked to Op Puerto, slag nearly everyone and every team in cycling only to be proven prescient time and time again, and he can mountain bike too--is there anything *not* to love about this man?

Una Canzone Per Te: finally, in tribute to Il Grillo's smashing effort this weekend, and in sympathy with Tom Boonen's virtual invisibility in the action, I bring you a lovely rendition of a fine Metallica song from our two heroes:

Hell, if cycling doesn't pan out for you boys (though you've both done reasonably well to date), there's always "American Idol"!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Escape From Astanatraz

My Cousin Vino: yep, as predicted, Johan Bruyneel's back in the hole again, as Astanadiscovery is officially kept out of the Tour on the grounds that it, unlike, say, Cofidis, had a little problem with doping in the Tour last year, and, as of this writing, baby hope-o'-the-future Contador won't be able to defend Michael Rasmussen's yellow jersey (yeah, you heard me) in 2008. Still, while it apparently makes perfect sense on Planet Prudhomme to ruthlessly !@#$ over Levi Leipheimer, Chris Horner and single-most-luckless-bastard-on-earth Andreas Kloden for something Alexander Vinokorouv did, Contador can rest assured that not only does UCI have his back no matter who Manolo Saiz is rumored to have stuffed with drugs like grain to foie gras-bound ducks, but that, as Prudhomme helpfully informed the press, it's nothing personal against Contador, and indeed the boy would be welcome at the start line, and podium, anytime. Sure you won't re-think that holy vow of fidelity to Astana you made a few months back, Alberto?

Chicken Run: and, the self-pitying wah-fest that is UCI continues, as the same organization that unquestioningly coddles preferred riders, treats the most egregious systemic management doping scandals as the aberrant acts of individual filthy renegade rider freaks, targets anyone who remotely displeases it with all the careful aim of a steroid-snarfing alpha ape in a blood-soaked action flick and happily let Michael Rasmussen ride the Tour for two weeks knowing he'd missed the out-of-competition doping controls they require, now have taken former WADA chief Dick "Dick" Pound to court in Switzerland on the ridiculous grounds that he really didn't seem to treat their stellar anti-doping efforts with all that much respect. Um, not to defend the Landis-smacking righteous troll Pound here, but is UCI sure he's the only one who feels that way?

Bad Boys: and, in one of the lamest investigative exposes in years, the German inquisitors, already darned sure there was some systemic doping down T-Mobile way from 1993-2005, have now made the previously-unheard-of allegation that Jan Ullrich "probably" doped while on the team, but they can't "prove it." Next Star Magazine shocker: some people say Bjarne Riis might've doped back in the day, too! Oh, wait....

To Kill a...Well, Il Killer: and, the travails continue for poor Danilo DiLuca, who just heard from CAS that he can expect a decision on his Oil-for-Drugs appeal long about 10 days from now. Natch, he's deeply pissed at the injustices of the last nine months, which have already cost him a Tour, a Worlds, an Olympics, and a ProTour title, wants his image clean, but he bravely remains tranquillo, trusting CAS to treat him fair and square. You want to take bets on how confident Iban Mayo and Floyd Landis are on that at the moment?

(San)Remo 911: finally, in Milano-Sanremo news, Rebellin's counting on the tactical collaboration of wily riders like Sylvain Chavanel to confound and devastate the peloton; Tom Boonen professes he's "not afraid" and fingers Pippo Pozzato as his main rival; Giro marvel/Gibo Simoni fave Riccardo Ricco' is out, still badly dented from his date with the pavement at Tirreno-Adriatico; we love Paolo Bettini concedes he's not at maximum form but he'll try, even though he favors Tirreno sprint-stud we love Oscar Freire for the win; and the tifosi over at gazzetta dello sport are likewise pegging first Freire, then Bettini of course, then Petacchi of course, with Paris-Nice champ Rebellin dangerously low on the list and it's-not-Thor Hushovd's-fault-he's-not-Italian-so-his-naysayers-can-go-to-hell on the absolute ass-end of nowhere. Me? Much as I would ordinarily want Hushovd to take it, there are those with even more historically crappy luck than he, so my money's on...well, I wouldn't want to jinx 'im, so I won't give that up for the worlds, world, worlds!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Addio Super Mario!

It's Official: rumors be damned, the Lion King has really retired this time. And as a simple search on the internet for a suitable photographic tribute turned into an endless wade through a sea of pics of him with his shirt off, before I could even come up with any photos of him actually racing, I bring to you instead his appearance on the Italian "Punk'd" in his Domina Vacanze days. The setup: he's out training, he's told his bikes have been ripped off, the thieves zoom by with the bikes before his very eyes, Mario takes off in pursuit, and the knaves, taking refuge, taunt him as Mario goes postal with a sledgehammer and cinderblock. By all accounts, he took his punking graciously. Sorry to miss you in Sanremo Mario!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Smackdown at Sanremo

The King's New Queen: as the clock ticks down to Milano-Sanremo, and the Italian press breathlessly sets up a showdown between we love Oscar Freire and Petacchi over Freire's uncertain comments on Ale-Jet's form, gazzetta's now going wild this morning over rumors that the on-again-off-again romance between the Lion King and Michael Ball is off again as Mario Cipollini is asking to be let out of his contract with Rock Racing so he can ride Sanremo. His new amore? Yep, none other than Team Tinkoff, famed last season for hiring the exact same dope freaks now residing at Rock then jettisoning them the second Oleg Tinkov had milked that PR cow for all it was worth. The tifosi, meantime, are already weighing in, excited to see him back but still mocking the old guy for pimping himself solely for cash. Man, one third place at the Tour of California and a few armfuls of swooning babes and this suave boy seems to really be getting serious! Don't test positive, don't test positive...

Random Rumor o' the Week: surprisingly, courtesy of Anthony McCrossen over at, who reported that the Astana team car had apparently been sighted along the curb on the last climb of the last stage of Paris-Nice, seemingly reproving the race organizers for leaving baby defending champ/I-promised-not-to-keep-mentioning-he-was-on-Liberty-Seguros Alberto Contador out in the cold. Mysteriously, the car had disappeared by the time the cameras caught up to the climb, leaving open the question whether Johan--since he can't get his boys into any races before August--ultimately took the more pragmatic course of action, which would be sticking a Domino's pizza sign on the roof in place of the bikes and at least letting Levi Chris and Klodi earn a few extra bucks shilling 30-minute pizzas to the expectant roadside fans. Either get these loyal guys a decent gig or let 'em loose, Bruyneel!

It's Your Favorite Schoolhouse, Schoolhouse Rock!: and, as Landis' closed-door-so-we-can't-see-him-get-hosed CAS hearing fast and furiously approaches, I urge you both to turn for serious updates to the dedicated dexters over at trustbutverify, who not only know all there is to know about the Landis affair (save perhaps an on-the-scene play-by-play of what actually did or didn't occur that night in the hotel room after the boy's ill-fated breakaway to victory), but also genuinely understand what the hell is being discussed scientifically, which is way beyond the doofus-level analysis you'll get from me on this issue (and on many others, but that's beside the point). Allez allez trustbut--and good luck Floyd you're gonna need it!

Now That's Just Weak: grinding up Mont Ventoux? For wussies. Taking out Tom Boonen in a sprint? A weakling could do it. But standing around in a pair of khakis and a dress shirt with a scotch-and-soda and intermittently tapping a small ball with a long stick? Now *that's* athleticism my friends! And in honor of said superhuman efforts, I bring you the latest in upper-class inbred doping scandals. Can you imagine what intravenous hijinks these astonishing athletes are up to post-match just to survive the next day's travails?

I'm Not Worthy: okay, so links it is folks, many humble thanks for the feedback, and, lacking a good cyclist sissyfest slap-fight to post this week, and in recognition of the fact that I can and will hold a grudge for all eternity over poor we love Joseba Beloki's ignominious and untimely retirement from the peloton, I provide you with yet another reminder of why we hate Pat "Dick" McQuaid and his loathesome death-by-innuendo hit squads, to wit, Joseba's announcement of retirement:

Fortunately, or more precisely un- due to Joseba's miserable suffering body language, you needn't understand much Spanish to get the general message. !@#$ you, McQuaid!

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Taxes--They're Landis' Fault

!@#damn Commies Taxin' Everythin'! I Oughta Go Off the Grid and Live Off Shootin' Squirrels for Dinner!: yep, if you didn't think blaming poor Floyd Landis for the entire downfall of the previously pure and drug-free sport of cycling was enough, and as if the boy weren't already having a crappy enough week being blamed for the breakup of antidoping program honchos ACE right before he has his last-ditch appeal at CAS, now there's a brand new outrage to stick on him: he alone is sucking up your precious tax dollars that could be used to fill deserving potholes in your own neighborhood with his malicious selfish whining about "Justice this!" and "Fair play that!" Leaving aside that no-one's been crying about using tax dollars to exonerate a pack of couch-glomming overpaid baseball players whose necks and biceps clearly increased in size from toothpicks to actual redwoods over the suspicious span of about a week, and that I actually have no idea how much the agency at issue is publicly or privately funded, it's a public body, assclowns, just like the same court that I help pay for that your !@# gets dragged into for OUI after your four-hour tailgate before a Pats game or the schools that educate your kids on collective civic responsibility in commie socialist criminal-coddling high-school government class. You want a nice fast cheap club-wielding private vigilante squad instead of pesky expensive due process rights? You go convince Pat "Dick" McQuaid and the same self-righteous teams that engage their athletes in systemic doping to personally pony up for one! AP newsflash: Landis also to blame for Pat "Dick" McQuaid's hemorrhoids, Dick "Dick" Pounds scrofula, the high price of gasoline, the subprime market collapse, that infernal hangnail Bjarne Riis just can't shake...

Rebel(lin) With a Cause: moving on to riders who haven't had the prime of their careers mangled so badly it no longer matters in practical terms whether they actually doped or not, quiet 36-year-old veteran Davide Rebellin slaps away the surging jailbait and holds on to the slimmest of leads and an onslaught of frantic challenges to keep the win at Paris-Nice as fine former Contador teammate/emerging Classics specialist Luis Leon Sanchez snags the stage after a brutal series of attacks in the last few kilometers. Yeeeee-haaaaah! The Italian tifosi, however, are left wondering, "what the hell is wrong with Cunego?" As Gilberto Simoni said, you can't milk that Piccolo Principe baby-prodigy rep forever! Meantime, road warrior Kristin Armstrong utterly demolished an impressive international field at the Exeter time trial, and, in body-count news, poor Linus Gerdemann snapped his femur at Tirreno and is off the bike for six weeks, bad news for young but high-caliber High Road. Get better soon Linus!

Punk-Ass Move of the Year Award: yep, it's early in the season, but I'm fairly confident that disgusting as this beautiful sport can be--and it's been pretty damn disgusting of late, let's face it--nothing can match the sheer low-rent bottom-dwelling scumsuckery of accosting grieving father Kevin Van Impe for a submit-or-be-banned doping control as he fills out the paperwork for his lost infant son's funeral arrangements. Of course, it must have made sense at the time, because naturally the first thing a parent thinks of when they lose a child is to run to the bathroom to jam an EPO-loaded syringe into their !@# to soothe their loss and prepare for the upcoming spring Classics. The riders, in response, showed handsome solidarity for once by delaying the start of Paris-Nice a few minutes in protest. What the hell were those soulless amoral freaks even thinking?

A Note from the Racejunkie Marketing-and-Raging-Insecurity Department: okay, so I've been asked to add some links and stuff and I've added 'em. And I'm happy to do it, but frankly, I'm still something of a tech nit, and this does take a bit of time. Now I need feedback from both my faithful readers--you want me to keep it up, or not? Either way is good by me--though I must admit, anything that gives me an excuse to screw around on the computer looking at Roberto Heras videos for two hours is worth it, and I've got you to thank for that. So what's the word, (both of you) folks?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

This Is the Dawning of the Age of...

...Yep, Cycling Protests, as all those lame social revolutions of the past give way to the noblest purpose of civil disobedience--busting Danilo Di Luca out of past and future doping suspensions. The circumstances of this history-making stand for civil rights? Four train-cars full of "Il Killer Fans Club"--a good three hundred tifosi by at least one count--descended on CONI HQ in Rome on Monday, pleading for his freedom and chanting "Hands off Di Luca!" Luckily, despite the simmering passionate crowd and a heavy preponderance of jack-booted order-keeping thugs, disaster was averted as a besotted and acid-tripping Di Luca stalwart bravely approached a truncheon-bearing goon and offered him a flower the color of a maglia rosa, which defused tensions beautifully until nearby goons accidentally mistook the flower for a wielded weapon and clubbed the poor sod into the pavement. Wait, maybe I'm translating this wrong...

Days of Thunder: and, as Petacchi gets set for his showdown with CAS on April 1 over his little salbutamol OD, Ale-Jet fans are sure to freak as he admits in an interview that, at thirty-four years of age, if he's disqualified, he's done racing for good. As to his current season, he may well skip the Giro for the upcoming birth of little Alessandro (if a boy), particularly as there's little there this year for sprinters, which will would allow him to focus on taking out Sanremo Paris-Tours Ghent and the Tour de France green jersey. His nearest rivals? Not up-and-coming sprint godlet Daniele Bennati by his measure, as he names damn near every serious sprinter on earth including Freire (damn right!) Bettini Boonen McEwen Hushovd (damn right!) and even junior threats Cavendish and Ciolek, but not his smug smack-talkin' self-proclaimed rival. Oh, snap!

Mea Culpa Roundup: as we love Oscar Freire takes a win at Tirreno, youngster Gesink gets rightly if discreetly pissed as Cadel wheel-sucks his way to the win on Ventoux, and disgraced Di Luca gets to ride Tirreno and Milano-Sanremo (which oughta really be making poor Stefano Garzelli, screwed out of those races plus the Giro for no apparent reason whatsoever, quite apoplectic), over in the If-I'm-Sorry-Enough-Will-You-Still-Pay-Me-500,000-Euros Department Ivan Basso seems just one comely lip-pout away from the Worlds as the head of Italian cycling fed compliments him lushly for serving his punishment with honor and spending this time in humble dedication to charitable efforts, saying he must still fill out his full suspension but likely in serious physical danger from thousands of enraged tifosi should he fail to ultimately clear the boy in time to hit the road in Varese. Patrik Sinkewitz, meantime, is rushing to throw some raw meat at Andreas Kloden's legal Dobies, swearing he hasn't sold him or anyone to the cops and totally coincidentally hoping to find himself a nice team he swears he would never ever ever rat out to the narcs no matter what systemic doping scheme they push, I mean, no matter what some utterly betraying rogue cyclist might come up with the team docs absolutely on his own with no help from anyone management-related at all. And, as even Santi Botero is cleared to ride the Olympics by the Colombians despite repeated whispers of his link to some minor Spanish cycling brouhaha, is anyone else thinking that Jorg Jaksche, repentant as he's been and open about the entire sport's flaws as he's been, is completely and irredeemably !@#$%& no matter whether his suspension's up before he retires or not?

He Who Laughs Last, Laughs His Shorts Off: Finally, as the season heats up and the victors salute the sky in triumph again and again as they cross the line, I offer a cautionary note for those folks newer to winning as they learn to control their steed:

Monday, March 10, 2008

Sturm und Drang

Sturm: well, it's a crappy start for the cyclists but a smashing one for the fans (specifically, me) at Paris-Nice, as, after the teams actually put their held-back riders back into the start list in surprisingly cohesive defiance of UCI, we love ever-underrated Thor Hushovd snags the prologue under then-improving but still miserable rain and wind at Paris-Nice. And, while after today's even more disgusting conditions the weather's apparently forecast to improve, I fully expect further carnage, if not on the actual tarmac then over at UCI headquarters, as Pat "Dick" McQuaid must be searching desperately for some way to soothe his humiliation over the teams' winning last-minute throwdown over the race and presumably is about to take aim yet again at whatever poor random bastard strikes his nasty fancy. Come to think of it though, is there *anyone* left in the peloton that this guy hasn't irrationally targeted yet? Well, everybody seems to like...forget it, I better stop right there!

Drang: and, speaking of lousy conditions, Jan Ullrich's apparently been offered a near-irresistable deal by the voracious German prosecutors, who have kindly suggested they might be willing to drop their terrifying contract-fraud investigation if he'll only confess to being a client of Dr. Fuentes and pony up a piddling fine of 1 million euros. Um, leaving aside the distinct unlikelihood that T-Mobile had no idea what if anything their discarded cash-cow was doing, get back on that bike at those charity events and start mugging for the cameras, Jan--with a little luck and, say, a half-assed non-admission, you might yet be able to pull a Basso on this one and if not return to the actual ranks, at least get a nice new gig as a manager!

Old Friends: or maybe not so much these days for ex-teammates Patrik Sinkewitz and Andreas Kloden, as former T-Mobile poz Sinkewitz deals to suck up his ban and avoid jail time but be back on the market by mid-summer in exchange for pimping we-still-love-the-incredibly-luckless-and-besides-he's-innocent-til-proven-guilty (and let's face it, even if he is, he ain't much guiltier'n anyone else) Kloden and fellow ex-Vino flotsam Matthias Kessler to the narcs. Unsurprisingly, Klodi has taken issue with Patrik's accusation, to the positive if slightly cautious support of Astana (who, in a cautionary note, offered the same in an earlier incarnation to professed innocent Ivan Basso before tossing him out the window of the team car like a cigarette butt), continuing a fruitless season of endless victimhood as Klodi helplessly watches his prep for his key target races the entire season slip away. Surely, in any case, the boy was as clean as anyone else at T-Mobile, which clearly proves question please!

These Dreams: as poor Stefano Garzelli resigns himself (albeit at the top of his lungs) to watching Tirreno-Adriatico and Milan-Sanremo (not to mention the Giro) on TV this year, and the CONI prosecutors remain hell-bent on smacking Danilo DiLuca and half the other Italian cyclists who matter out of the Corsa Rosa, Mario Cipollini has nonetheless given us a tantalizing glimpse into the future of Italian cycling: he dreams of having Ivan Basso and emergent sprint god Daniele Bennati on Rock Racing next year. Now, if it were anyone else, I'd say Bennati ought to choose his future teammates more carefully, at least if he wants to keep riding the races he's looking to win. But really, if the annoying St. David Millar's constant preening contrition can win such sympathy, can anyone doubt that Basso's smashing (if wholly inadvertent I'm sure) PR rehab (in combination with Mario's own personal extreme chicness, per the photo) will score Rock wildcards for any damn race they want?

Go Ask Tammy: as the rest of the peloton seeks the latest in IV innovations to improve their performance, some folks are apparently still forced to rely on the cheap stuff, as fed prosecutors claim "overwhelming" proof Olympian Tammy Thomas perjured herself during the BALCO investigation when she denied using steroids. The evidence? Her dealer apparently kept a high-end LeMond that Thomas traded for drugs when she was down on cash. Prosecutors will also rely on "body changes" purportedly resulting from the steroids, including Peter Brady vocal troubles and that she had to shave a full beard, which sure means I'll never bitch about shaving my legs again. Y'know, putting aside the perfect irony that she exchanged one of Landis-affair cleanster witness' Greg LeMond's bikes for doping products, I know women cyclists are paid absolute squat, but I think I'm in sympathy with many gear-obsessed amateurs when I say to Tammy, "you traded your !@#$&^% *bike* for a couple lousy cheap-@#$ syringes of easily detectable drugs?" At least give it (the bike, not the drugs) to some hard-up humble road freak who really deserves it instead of some skankball alleyway dope-pusher for heck's sake!

Tick, Tock: finally, loathe as I am to kick a peacefully sleeping animal in an uncomfortable area, I cannot help but wonder, where the hell is Iban Mayo's CAS ruling on how completely grotesquely the vindictive cornered rabid snarling raccoons at UCI have chewed him to pieces by ignoring their own rules on B-sample results, I mean, on his perfectly objectively fact-driven prosecution goddammit?

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

No More Mr. (Paris) Nice Guy...

No More Mr. Clee-ee-ee-an!: As the clock ticks down rapidly to an uncertain Paris-Nice, and the cycling world continues to eat its young as Pat "Dick" McQuaid refuses the helpful offer of the French sports minister to meet to resolve the issues at hand, it seems to me that in order to fairly (well, as fairly as I get) assess the situation, we ought to take stock of the key players--and the interests and motives--involved:

ASO: bitter selfish profiteering style-over-substance image-obsessed press-cowed narcissists who, coincidentally, organize some of the most beautiful races on Earth (our beloved Giro and Vuelta excepted). Sympathy Factor: 1.

UCI: vicious arrogant selfish egomaniacal power-hungry arbitrary vindictive narcissists who, coincidentally, control by fear and coarse knee-capping threats participation in some of the most beautiful races on Earth. Sympathy Factor: Absolute zero. You bite, McQuaid!

Teams Association: spineless ineffectual waffling disorganized simps incapable of acting together for the betterment of the sport or, God forbid, their own riders. Nonetheless, impossibly caught between snarling packs of astonishingly nasty rabid wolverines, and have sensibly appealed for CAS intervention. Sympathy Factor: would be 2, but I'm really irked they're pulling boys like Gilbert out rather'n simply back 'em. Free the riders!

National Cycling Feds: unreasonable finger-pointing obstructionist hypocrites alone, and as a unified body, too gutless to take on McQuaid's ridiculous warmongering. Still, gotta fake respect for the ProTour if their local heroes are gonna ride. Sympathy Factor: .5, except I continue to admire the Spanish fed's ruthless protectionism of Alejandro Valverde in a Machiavellian sort of way.

Riders: everybody's helpless dope-slapped whipping boys, punished for doping, fired for not winning clean against armies of drug-stoked comrades, forced to ride in crappy conditions, told to choose between this season's key goals and their future livelihoods, and oft sold down the river like cargo on the Yangtze. Sympathy Factor: endless. Can't any of you low-rent lunch-money-extorting swaggering schoolyard bullies let these nice hard-working boys do their jobs?

Tifosi: dog-loyal enthusiasts, treated like fleas. Sympathy Factor: not so much as the riders of course, but cycling, we've stuck by you through some pretty disgusting behavior, so throw us a bone whydontcha!

Paris-Nice Itself: Jacques Anquetil (a lot). Eddy Merckx. Miguel Indurain. Sean Kelly (an incredible lot). Laurent Jalabert. More recently, Andreas Kloden, Bobby Julich, Floyd Landis. 75 years of smashing beauty and intermittent tragedy. Sympathy Factor: how dare any of you soulless self-absorbed tools even mildly seek to screw around with this beautiful race?!

Frankly, I'm voting that all the riders show up at the Paris-Nice start line ready to go with a couple extra gels and water bottles shoved down their jerseys, reclaim this gorgeous storied race for themselves and the worshipful masses, and tell the cowardly teams, self-besotted organizers, witchhunting federations and useless national bodies to !@#$ off. On to the Race to the Sun!

Monday, March 03, 2008


Bettini On Ice, Bettini So Nice: well, the Belgian classics are off again, with the body count already rising to impressive levels in the first two biggies of the year as craptasticallly unlucky world road god Paolo Bettini manages to hit the deck both at Omloop Het Volk and, the very next day no less, at Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne. Luckily, our boy, pissed though he appeared at Het Volk and temporarily stunned as he seemed at Kuurne (leading to his precautionary trip to hospital), was merely scraped and bruised up and immediately expressed greater sympathy for the more damaged ragazzi, though on return to the bike this afternoon, suffered continued pain in his shoulder and leg and is going to test it out tomorrow to see if he's still in shape for this weekend's Montepaschi Eroica. Vai Paolo--what a class act all 'round!

I Forgive You, In the "Drop Dead You Cheating Pig" Sense: so after duly serving his time for being a dope-addled supernaturally-powerful freak, and having happily pulled himself out of his truly grim downward mental spiral, Frank Vandenbroucke now finds his team welcome in the peloton--specifically, the ProTour races--so long as he doesn't show up with them. Needless to say, our (mildly) penitent hero is already appealing the decision, though why one ought to complain about having a totally unexpected punishment piled on one without notice or reason is beyond me. What the @##$%, UCI--is a two-year ban a two-year ban, or not? If you want a "one strike and you're out" policy, you disgusting hypocrites, show some stones and institute one openly already! Not that these guys deserve a ticker-tape parade or nuthin' (unless they sob to the press all the time about how bad they feel about getting busted, in which case they apparently deserve not only a parade but also to be bodily gilded and glued to a marble !@#$ing pedestal), but do we mean this !@#$ or not?

Paris-dise Lost: and, lest anyone think that UCI's been humiliated *again* by the wholesale bailing of the ProTour teams for the inconsequential little meander that is Paris-Nice, our fave head honcho has come out snarling that not *all* the teams are truly on board with the race, contrary to the lying disengenuous weasels that comprise the ASO and the teams' association, and are actually somewhat wary of contract provisions that demand their death-by-drawing-and-quartering if there's even a whisper of any sort of any controversy no matter how ludicrous about the squad or its boys anytime anywhere ever. Meantime, Het Volk winner Philippe Gilbert is already being held out of the race by cautious team management, at least until they see who, among all the whining organizational contenders for studly supremacy, comes out on top. Hell, at least ASO gets points for honestly admitting they're just pissed about how they look when a scandal breaks--like UCI really gives a rat's !@# whether a rider has genuinely been proven guilty of anything before they toss him into the flames like a fallen ash-covered marshmallow?

Smackdown o' the Week: finally, I bring you the slap fight we've all been waiting for (courtesy of italiaciclismo) between the fearsome gladiators Pat "Dick" McQuaid and Christian Prudhomme (or just a coupla agitated roadies, whichever)--as the caption says, these boys seem to have mistaken the genteel pasttime of cycling for the base grunting slugfest of boxing. Hey, why worry about some pesky boring road race when you can indulge in the petty selfish ego wars that *really* define this sport?